The National, Thursday October 17th, 2013
IN 1876 British Christian writer George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) published her novel Daniel Deronda, which was to make an impact on many Jews, who in their own way, influenced future Zionism and Jewish national aspirations.
One passage in the novel was often quoted: “Revive the organic centre; let the unity of Israel which has made the growth and form of religion be an outward reality, looking toward a land and a polity, our dispersed people in all the ends of the earth may share the dignity of a national life which has a voice among the peoples of the East and the West – which will plant the wisdom and skill of our race so that it may be, as of old, a medium of transmission and understanding.” – As quoted in Israel, A History by British statesman and historian Martin Gilbert.
Secular and religious Zionism, which still has its detractors, forced the Jewish race to disperse all over the world and to dream constantly of returning home.
The movement into Palestine started as a trickle and became a flood that eventually resulted in the declaration of a state and nationhood in May, 1948.
People from all over the world, friend and foe alike, have marvelled at the resilience and drive of a people so determined to find a place for themselves that they have fended strong adversity and always managed to emerge victorious and ever more determined.
Papua New Guineans have had a long affinity with the Holy Land and the Jewish people for many years, long before any formal diplomatic relations were discussed and established with Israel.
Many Papua New Guineans have made pilgrimages to the Holy Land, including leaders like former Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane, who has chronicled his tours in a book.
Christian followers, business people and even ordinary villagers have been drawn to the land that is said to be at the centre of the world stage given its secular and religious history. Its journey towards nationhood and years after political independence were nothing short of dramatic and perilous at times.
Few nations have survived six armed conflicts with a number of different enemies in a short period following independence. Israel had to ensure its armed forces were superior to those of its enemies and its military personnel keenly determined to fight for a cause. Its military technology is now known the world over.
It is such military technology that Prime Minister Peter O’Neill was introduced to on his visit to Israel this week. He told that country’s defence force officials that PNG could be using some of their products in rebuilding its small force.
“We will not be as advanced as you are but we are determined to build the capacity of our defence force using some of your products tailored to our needs,” O’Neill was reported as telling the Israelis. Some of that technology can be used to police PNG’s borders, which are now wide open, allowing criminals like drug and arms smugglers to penetrate the country with the least of worries. The prime minister and his delegation was shown how surveillance of the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone would be aided with the use of such technology.
The delegation will return with impressions of Israel’s equally sophisticated agriculture technology, which is known and applied in other nations.
PNG can gain immensely through the use of Israeli technology and expertise.
The setting up of a diplomatic office in Tel Aviv and a reciprocal one in Port Moresby are among O’Neill’s agenda on this visit to Israel. Perhaps the prime minister is well aware that many Papua New Guinean churches have long prayed for the establishment of reciprocal representative missions. Without the benefit of statistics, it is believed that apart from holiday and business trips to Australia, more Papua New Guineans visit Israel annually than any other nation of the world.
They have been asking for the establishment of formal diplomatic relations not only to make travel arrangements easier but because they feel it is the right thing for PNG to do as a Christian country.
Many Christians feel indebted to Israel for their faith and Israel has contributed to the world’s development spiritually and in the many technological innovations that are attributable to Jewish minds that have benefited humanity. O’Neill’s visit to Israel may be an answer to these prayers.